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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

The beauty of a job well done: Shebaba by Renuka Narayanan

It’s easy to scoff and make light of them, but it takes tonnes of discipline and commitment to do what real princesses must do.

columns Updated: Apr 29, 2018 09:51 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times
British royals William and Kate wave to photographers hours after the birth of their third child.
British royals William and Kate wave to photographers hours after the birth of their third child. (Tim Ireland / AP Photo)

According to a news report, the British press, despite knowing only the time of birth and the birth weight, instantly wrote 80 pages of comment and speculation on the new baby born to the UK’s line of royal heirs.

Many sympathised with Kate for having had to appear in public within hours of the birth. Others sneered that it was easy enough to do so if you had money and hordes of trained aides. Personally, I thought it was admirable discipline and commitment on her part, to what is evidently perceived as a core duty.

After all, if an actor carries on acting despite setbacks, we admire him or her for being committed to stage dharma, to the principle of ‘the show must go on’. Similarly, doctors and soldiers are expected to bash on regardless, as are sanitation workers, who, as the guardians of civil society’s health, are soldiers too. Isn’t it a good example if a future queen also shows discipline?

I don’t know too many princesses of royal blood. Rather, I seem to encounter a number of young women, daughters of new money and old bureaucracy, who qualify as ‘princesses’ in the clichéd sense of being spoilt and bratty. However, a real ex-princess from a former kingdom in central India has stayed in my mind as having been ‘properly princessy’.

I wanted to style a fashion shoot for an important anniversary of Independence Day with her as the model, wearing saris designed by her ancestress, a famous and much-loved queen. I was set on having her model this for the sheer harmony of the idea on so many levels. Luckily, through the good offices of a colleague who was her friend, she agreed, although she had never modelled before.

A good fashion photographer and stylist were brought on board, too. My budget was absurdly low, typical of those days, but it was a fun challenge to try and deliver the moon for sixpence.

Compelled by deadlines and clashing schedules, we set off for our location on a blazing June day from the New Delhi railway station, in a second-class compartment. En route, some of our group grumbled non-stop about the heat and dust; the princess, all of eighteen, went quietly to sleep on a top berth.

We endured another hot, tiring journey by road the following day, to her ancestral riverside home. The princess took us out on the river to cool off with a pre-sunset swim, followed by orange squash and biscuits on the boat. We were now free until dinner. But the princess was on duty. Since her parents were away, she was required to represent her family at a state-sponsored cultural festival on the ghats.

Wearing one of her mother’s saris, she did a namaste to the evening lamp, exchanged greetings with the public and sat with a straight back through the two-hour programme. As young and tired as she was, she did her duty with absolute grace. There are universal dharmic points here, don’t you think, both from Kate and the young Indian?

The views expressed are personal.

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 15:51 IST